The holidays are a wonderful time of the year. Food, family, togetherness, Christmas lights — could it get any better? But for many people who are trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle, the holidays can incite a lot of anxiety. Temptations are everywhere — around every corner at work, set out banquet-style at parties, and at the four different family get-togethers that you go to for each holiday. So, what can you do?
There are many common ways people try to compensate for their unhealthy holiday behaviors, but these strategies often end up backfiring in the long run. Here are some that you might have tried — and some healthier alternatives.
1. Skip meals the day of a holiday celebration to “save your calories” for the feast you’ll eat that night.
This often ends up backfiring because when you walk into a party starving, it usually leads to overeating a lot of calorie-dense foods. Instead, eat regular, balanced meals throughout the day of a party, and treat a party spread like you would any other meal — you should arrive with no more than a moderate level of hunger. Honor your fullness cues while you’re there. When you’re no longer hungry, stop eating.
2. Have no fruits or vegetables in the spread.
If the closest thing to fruits and vegetables in your holiday spread is cranberry sauce and green bean casserole, maybe it’s time to add more fruits and vegetables to the table. It’s easy to give the recommendation to “fill your plate up with fruits and veggies,” but if there is no fruit and veggie platter, that will be really difficult! If there aren’t often fruits and veggies at your holiday gatherings, take it upon yourself to bring them and make sure you have some.
3. Use the biggest plate.
If there is an option to choose a smaller-sized plate, choose the smaller-sized plate! Having a smaller plate has been known to decrease portions and make it more difficult to over-indulge.
4. Stand by the food table to socialize.
Go to the food table only with the explicit purpose of grabbing more food. If you stand by the food table to socialize (or do anything else), this increases the likelihood that you’ll be tempted to mindlessly pick at it. This mindlessness is where the calories can really add up.
5. Worry about everyone else’s feelings.
You are not responsible for making sure Aunt Carol doesn’t feel bad if you don’t take a piece of that pie you don’t even like. Do not feel obligated to try everything. Pick only the things you will truly get enjoyment from. Eating something because you are worried about hurting someone’s feelings is not a good reason to eat something.
The holidays can be a stressful time for a variety of reasons, but don’t make the stress worse by feelings of guilt or anxiety over eating. If you do over-indulge, make peace with that decision and move on. The only thing you can do about it now is to try and do better next time!
Pumpkin pie dip
Makes: 24 servings
- 6 ounces reduced fat cream cheese, room temperature
- ⅓ cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt
- 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin, no sugar added
- 2½ teaspoons cinnamon, ground
- 1 teaspoon allspice, ground
- 1 teaspoon cloves, ground
- ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg ground
- 5 tablespoons honey
- ⅛ teaspoon sea salt
In a food processor, place cream cheese and Greek yogurt and blend until smooth. Add remaining ingredients in the food processor and blend until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving with sliced fruit or pretzels.
Nutrition information: Per serving (about 2 tablespoons): 45 calories, 2.5 g fat, 1 g protein, 5 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 40 mg sodium
Green bean and pesto potato salad
Makes: 7 servings
- 1½ lbs. baby red potatoes
- 2 cups fresh green beans cut into 1-inch pieces
- ½ cup pesto
- 2-4 tablespoons chopped red onions, to taste
Cut each potato into four equal pieces and place the potatoes in a medium pot. Cover the potatoes with cold water and bring to a boil uncovered on the stove and cook until tender but not mushy.
Remove the potatoes from the water and place in a medium bowl. Return water to a boil. Add the green beans and cook for one to two minutes, until they are bright green and still crisp.
Remove the green beans from the pot and mix with the potatoes. Add the pesto and onions and gently mix.
Nutrition information: Per serving: 180 calories, 8 g fat, 5 g protein, 21 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 160 mg sodium